Monday, June 22, 2009

Dear Progressive California Legislator

California desperately needs a few courageous progressive legislators to take the “no more cuts” pledge.  If the Republicans can hold the whole state hostage and threaten to scrap our social fabric with their “no new taxes” pledge, then it’s time for a few equally stubborn progressives to refuse to play their game.

The last budget compromise was a disaster.  The cuts were devastating, and the proposed solutions were so deeply laced with poison pills (like the spending cap) that they didn’t have a chance.  Without a fair tax policy, one that features progressive taxes and cancels the loopholes that allow corporations to be virtually untaxed, the only California dream will be a recurring and deepening nightmare.

So, dear legislator, please…  take the “No More Cuts” pledge.  What have you got to lose, anyway?  When you ran for office, you promised your constituents that you would protect their well-being.  You talked about education, health care and the environment. You talked about building bridges between our diverse communities.  If you support the budget that’s being promoted by Democratic Leadership, all of those things will be torn apart.   

That’s not why you ran for office.  It’s not why we voted for you, and it’s not the legacy you want to leave when you’ve been termed out.  So, dig your heels in and stand up for California.  Your constituents (neighborhood folks, teachers, nurses, bus drivers, parents and their children) are paying attention.  Don’t agree to any budget that doesn’t significantly raise revenue.  Or at the very least, don’t agree to any compromise which doesn’t alter California’s undemocratic two-thirds mandates or the inequities of Proposition 13.

The money is there, even though the media, the Governor, the Republicans and the compromisers want you to believe that it’s not. California AFSCME found creative ways to raise $44 billion in more revenue.  Sure it won’t be easy to get it.  Yes, you need to somehow come up with two-thirds of the votes to pass a budget.  But THEY also need two-thirds of the vote to pass an almost-all-cuts package.  Without your vote and the votes of like-minded colleagues, it will be equally difficult to pass a cuts-only package.  That’s right, the rest of your legislative colleagues have to listen to YOU.  So hold out for a real solution.  And be loud about it.

I know what’s on the line.  The government will likely go through a partial shutdown when things don’t get neatly resolved by the end of June.  It can honestly be said that lives are on the line.  As a teacher, I know my paycheck is on the line.  And, you might lose a few legislative perks when the party leadership is trying to sell out the state on another doomed compromise package.

But if the leadership doesn’t come to grip with the need for more revenue, fairly extracted from the Californians who can afford it the most, then what are you, dear progressive legislator, in store for?  More years with more cuts.  California losing its once proud public education system.  Walls, both real and metaphorical, separating rich from poor.  More kids without the skills to join the workforce or pursue college dreams.  More people dying because health care services were cut.  A very ungreen environment.  Every year, again and again.  Until some group of progressive legislators finally stands up and says, “NO MORE CUTS!”